South East, South South legislators task FG on peace
• Urge prompt action on Ogoni UNEP report
• Want grazing bill to be rejected
Penultimate week, legislators in different Houses of Assembly in the South East and South South geo political zones, comprising, Imo, Anambra, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi, (South East states) and Delta, Cross River, Rivers, Edo, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom (South South states), met at the Imo State House of Assembly.
They deliberated and resolved on a number of burning issues, ranging from the controversial cattle grazing bill, resource control and other regional and national issues, including the increased tempo in agricultural practice in the zones.
The lawmakers also deliberated on the policy to diversify the national economy, which is one of the cardinal policies of President Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration.
The legislative session presided over by the Speaker, Imo state House of Assembly, Chief Acho Ihim, was attended by the leadership of other Houses of Assembly in the affected states.
Deliberating on the motions, the South East, South South legislators concurred that the issues were germane to the development, growth and security of their zones and must therefore, be critically addressed.
First on the list of their discussion was the motion on grazing and control of cattle bill, which is already before the National Assembly.
Mrs. Blessing Nwagba, who represents Aba North constituency and his counterpart from Edo State, Flyeimi Imi, representing Onwa constituency presented the issue before their colleagues and they unanimously supported their presentation.
Collectively, they condemned the increasing menace of cattle grazing farmlands by herdsmen. They also frowned at the persistent destruction of crops as well as alleged rape of women and the killings being perpetrated by the herdsmen.
Citing the recent incident in Nimbo Community in Anambra State, in which suspected herdsmen invaded the community; Nwagba condemned the daylight slaughter of natives of the community without any known reason.
She also denounced the alleged use of AK 47 guns by the herdsmen, saying: “It is a gross understatement to state that the people of South East and South South stand today amidst fear. The spate of insecurity and uncertainty hovering over them in their homeland as a result of the herdsmen attack is unacceptable.”
Furthermore, she frowned at the proposal that natives of their various states and others across the country should release their farmlands as grazing routes and reserves for the herdsmen.
According to the lawmaker, “The fresh incidents of the criminal and nefarious activities of Fulani herdsmen, leading to recorded cases of unwarranted massacre of innocent men, women and children, rape of women, destruction of farmlands, kidnapping and other valuable properties in their lands as well as the growing culture of impunity, lawlessness and dare devilry exhibited by the marauding armed militia in the guise of herdsmen, is totally unacceptable.”
She regretted the herdsmen’s continuous and unrestrained invasion of all nooks and crannies of the South East and South South. She warned that the patience, tolerance and spirit of accommodation of the people of the two zones were being exhausted. “The free grazing of cattle in these areas will worsen and pose more threat to lives, property and growing of crops, which is the mainstay of the people of the zones,” he asserted.
Another legislator, Frank Onwe, from Ebony, and his counterpart from Akwa Ibom, Otuwekon Idem corroborated observation as they harped on the nefarious activities of the herdsmen and its consequences on the innocent and harmless people.
The duo alleged that some influential rich cabals in the northern region were behind the herdsmen activities and seeming defiance to constituted authorities.
Otuwenko particularly said it is unacceptable for the people of the South East and South-South regions to exchange their precious citizens for herdsmen cattle.
Mitel Bodo, from Bayelsa, M.J. Ekweremadu, from Enugu, and the Deputy Speaker of the Imo House of Assembly, Ugonna Ozuruigbo, agreed that the bill on grazing and control routes currently before the National Assembly, be rejected in its entirety.
They however charged the Federal Government and security agents across the country to act decisively and checkmate the cattle herdsmen, saying: “There is the need to act fast and stop the undesirable activities in the nation.”
Ihim had explained the aims and objectives of the gathering, noting, “We have unanimously decided to come together as brothers and sisters and as those affected by a common problem to take a position on the common issues affecting us and our people.”
He pointed out that since the current federal government took over power, the herdsmen activities have increased and become too dangerous for the corporate existence of the country, “the activities of herdsmen have caused much harm to most areas and we will not wait until it spread to the whole zones before we act.”
The legislators also deliberated on the raging destruction of oil installations and pipelines by the Niger Delta militants across the Nigeria Delta region.
They called on the Federal Government to dialogue with those groups that have claimed responsibilities for the dastard acts like the Avengers in the Rivers and Bayelsa and the Red Scorpions in Imo. They advised that the dialogue should be approached with human face and to ascertain the militants’ grievances and tackle them in other to ensure peace.
According to them, “The development would pose greater doom for the economy and peace of the country if left unattended to urgently.”
Recalling the Odi massacre incidence of November 1999, the legislators urged that the report on the United Nations Environment Programme and the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project be looked into with all the seriousness it deserved to save the people of the area of environmental devastation.
As a result, the lawmakers called for quick passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), to hasten activities and sanity in the industry.
Mike Omefele, from Delta State in collaboration with Kingsley Ikoro of Afikpo North constituency, in Ebonyi, supported the action and suggested that representatives from the two zones, the Federal Government and the militants, to come to a dialogue table.
In their resolutions, the lawmakers said: “South East and South South Houses of Assembly will no longer watch helplessly as the region drifts aimlessly and walk about in impoverishment, environmental degradation, insecurity, and uncertainty, while destruction of Oil and gas installations rages.”
They attributed the challenges confronting the zones to severe environmental, economic and security crises. They urged that the youths should be empowered, while infrastructure should be increased.
Against this backdrop, the lawmakers resolved to demand 65 per cent ownership of oil wells in the zones, for their kith and kin, saying that this would put the machinery for the guaranteed direct payment of oil derivative funds in the hands of the benefitting communities.
This, they opined would be opposed to the system in place where payment impoverishes the people of the zone.
On the issue of the militants, the lawmakers expressed support for the constructive engagement of the militants and suggested that they be engaged to safeguard the pipeline and oil installations. They stressed that the militants should be constituted into an officially recognised brigade for the protection of oil installations and to halt the rise of other offensive militant groups.
Ihim, who is the vice president of the Common Wealth Parliamentary Association, African Region, said before they dispersed, that the contents of their resolutions would be pursued. He pledged that regular interaction would be sustained on issues bothering the zones as he urged authorities concerned to implement their decisions for peace to reign in the regions.